Tent caterpillars are crawling out of their tree nests in prolific numbers this spring in West Virginia.

State plant and pest biologist Berry Crutchfield says there could be an explosion of the caterpillar population this year. He says the caterpillar population peaks every eight to ten years.

Crutchfield says the damage done by caterpillars is cosmetic. While the insects like to munch on tree leaves, they almost never kill the trees. He says many trees defoliated by caterpillars will recover by midsummer.

Tent caterpillars prefer flowering fruit trees such as wild black cherry, crabapple and hawthorn. Crutchfield says one way to control the caterpillars is to prune the eggs off the tips of trees before they hatch.

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